Bullfighting

spectacle
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  • Spanish Fiestas - History of Bullfighting in Spain
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Alternative Titles: combats des taureaux, corrida de toros, corrida de touros, tauromachy, tauromaquia

Bullfighting, Spanish la fiesta brava (“the brave festival”) or corrida de toros (“running of bulls”), Portuguese corrida de touros, French combats de taureaux, also called tauromachy, the national spectacle of denigrated by bullfighting traditionalists.

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Bullfighting has long generated commentary and controversy. To anthropologists and psychologists, the corrida has signified everything from a confrontation between culture and nature to a symbolic exposition of gender, sexual, or filial relations. In centuries past, clerics assailed bullfighting for degrading the work ethic and diverting public attention away from the church and prayer. Many observers—from Renaissance popes and Bourbon kings to contemporary animal-rights activists—have seen bullfighting as barbaric, as a perversion of the Christian principle of animal stewardship. Others have blamed the spectacle on a debased elite class, which historically held corridas in commemoration of royal weddings and to celebrate the graduation of doctoral students; in the latter case, graduates adorned a wall of their college with the blood of the bull, a tradition that lingers today but in the form of applying red paint, not blood. To still others, blame for the bullfight lies not with a decadent elite but with mass popular culture’s taste for bread-and-circuses kinds of entertainment. To many Spanish intellectuals (especially to the community of civilized nations. The manifestations. As described by valor, cowardliness, generosity, and meanness—all condensed into the actions of a single afternoon or even a single moment.

The classic Spanish type of bullfighting, which this article largely deals with, is often characterized as a sport, but it is not considered as such by its supporters and enthusiasts. While most sporting events value victory over method, in modern bullfighting the method is the essence of the spectacle. Its supporters see it as an art form not unlike ballet but with one major difference. As bullfighting aficionado Ernest Hemingway famously said in Death in the Afternoon (1932), “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death.”

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Six bulls and three bullfighters participate in the traditional bullfight, each matador fighting two bulls; a variation on this is the mano-a-mano bullfight, which is a duel between two matadors, each killing two or three bulls. (Almost every year, in a bravura gesture, a top matador, such as Juli, El; bullfighting

Juli, El; bullfighting
Spanish matador El Juli engaging a bull, June 6, 2010, Barcelona.
© Natursports/Shutterstock.com

The Spanish bullfighting season, la temporada, starts at the end of March and continues until early October. The top bullfighters then go to Lima for the monthlong Peruvian season before heading to Mexico City in December and January. The aspirants, los novilleros, perform in Mexico only in the summer, whereas in Spain they perform from March to October.

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